Ratings in Apple Stores a Surprise

A couple of weeks ago I picked up a used computer and one of the programs installed on it is itunes, an Apple program for listening to songs purchased from Apple. I think. I have never used itunes, so I’m sort of guessing in the dark here. I ran the program for the first time last night and found I could check on my stories listed in Apple’s ibookstore. The results took me completely by surprise.

The story called Healthy or Else had five ratings. I didn’t think anybody had every downloaded one of my stories from Apple, and immediately fired off a query to Smashwords asking if Apple reported downloads of free ebooks. I made my short stories free to begin building an audience, and Apple is the only store where I struck out, was skunked, or any other metaphor or cliché you care to use for no downloads whatsoever.

My query to Smashwords was premature. My next discovery was that books can be rated without downloading them. That forced my thought process into reverse, maybe none of my stories were ever downloaded from Apple and Smashwords’ records were accurate. 

The second and more interesting discovery was that those five ratings were in the Canadian itunes store. Out of curiosity I checked the American store, thinking it would have the same figure. It didn’t.  The American store posted an average score based on 20 ratings.

Some time ago I used a service to generate URL’s for all of the countries with itunes stores.  After digging out the list I checked Great Britain and Australia, but the blurb said there hadn’t been enough ratings for Healthy or Else to produce an average. Okay, that was mildly disappointing, but at least I was getting an indirect indication of the geographical distribution of the story.

Then I decided to explore a bit more and ran across a real shocker. Healthy or Else has been rated 28 times in Germany, one more than the 27 ratings in Barnes and Noble.  Not only was the number of ratings a shocker, I saw two short reviews. The reviews are in German, of course. I don’t know what they say, but both were 4 stars, so they can’t be too bad.

Now I was really curious how many times – if any – the story has been downloaded from Apple.

Healthy or Else was published two years ago today, and my exploration with this second hand itunes program gave me more feedback than I’ve had in the last two years. Other than the 27 ratings at Barnes and Noble there has been one (solicited) rating on Smashwords, one (unsolicited) rating at Goodreads, and a couple of early reviews on Bibliotastic. Both the rating on Goodreads and the best review on Barnes and Noble were posted in the last month.  Interestingly, the rating averages from Apple, in both America and Germany, are in line with the 3.5 average at Barnes and Noble.

I didn’t fare so well in my native Canada. The average for the five ratings was three. But since the story is satirical and is set in one of the Canadian provinces, I regard the lower rating as an inverse compliment. Not that very many Canadians read it.

Smashwords replied promptly the next day and said Apple doesn’t report downloads of free books. I hate data gaps, but what can you do?